Bulletin, a retail startup that has opened three shops across New York, has raised a $7 million Series A from Foundation Capital, with additional support from Kleiner Perkins, Trail Mix Ventures and Afore Capital. It’s the company’s second round of funding, having raised a seed round of $2.2 million in 2017.
The company plans on expanding its reach by building out a platform connecting brands with retailers, and giving direct-to-consumer brands a fighting chance to grow by making it easier to bring them to brick-and-mortar shops. In theory, this can remove the hassle of attending trade shows to find buyers. Additionally, the company’s made a series of new hires, such as its CTO, Nick Reavill, who was previously at Stitch Fix as an engineering director, and bringing on Lisa Bougie as an adviser, who used to be the chief merchandising officer at Stitch Fix.
“We’ve always wanted to build a solution that’s as salable and affordable,” said Alana Branston, CEO and co-founder. “There’s limitations to the store model and some of the other store models that are out there today.”
The platform, dubbed as a sort of “assortment-as-a-service” will use data science and insights to help retailers find the right brands for its shop. Bulletin looks at data such as historical sales, average order value, top product categories and more to find the right fit between a brand and a store. On the platform, shops can also see a brand’s retail and wholesale price.
As of now, the platform is in beta with 150 brands and 50 retailers such as Drake’s General Store and Concrete and Water. It will officially roll out later this summer. Retailers can either use the platform for free and pick out brands on their own, or pay a small service fee to have Bulletin run the data and pick out brands for them. Bulletin then takes a 20% fee on whatever the retailers buy on the platform. As for brands, Bulletin only takes 5% of the payout.
“Given how expensive and therefore prohibitive traditional channels are for these brands, we wanted a super affordable solution,” said Ali Kriegsman, COO and co-founder of Bulletin.
The idea for the platform first started last year with Omni, a software platform that allowed brands to apply to sell on Bulletin on a wholesale basis. Brands could then manage inventory and see how well products were selling in each store. However, by the middle of last year, Bulletin said it had a 3,000 brand waitlist that wanted to sell in a Bulletin shop—and that led to the creation of a marketplace platform that connects these brands with other brick-and-mortar stores.
Branston said Bulletin knows it’s not the first type of solution like this to come to market, adding that it’s a platform that’s offering more premium and vetted brands. Plus, retailers can filter brands and search for minority- or women-owned business, or brands that practice ethical sourcing for sustainability—letting brands shop by brand values, Kriegsman said. Eighty-five percent of the brands on the platform are also still female-founded.
In a world where UBS analysts expect 75,000 stores to close by 2026, retail shops are in crunch time to figure out what brands, experiences and events will draw customers in. Bulletin is one possible solution. Other companies are springing up to imagine better retail experiences for brands, such as b8ta, which has both its own stores, and offers retail-as-a-service to build out shops for brands. Story, now owned by Macy’s, is another retail concept that brings small businesses into Macy’s shop (to help both these brands and the giant box retailer). But Kriegsman said all these competitors and models show that there’s a need for this in the market to help brands who can’t afford the traditional solution that’s out there now of tours, showrooms and other fees.
“When we started Bulletin, our mission has always been the same; it’s been to help small, independent brands that are born online to grow quickly and affordably,” Kriegsman said.